Heart disease is a very common worry for either sex as we age. For women in particular though, symptoms related to heart diseases most often reveal themselves after the onset of menopause.
…Because of this, many have developed a misconception that menopause actually causes heart disease. In reality, this is not the case – the timing of menopause just happens to coincide with the time in a woman’s life that she is most likely to suffer the onset of heart disease. The effects a woman’s body experiences during menopause however – CAN be contributing factors and increase the likelihood that someone who was already at risk for heart disease, may be even more likely to suffer from it.
The Age of Menopause and Heart Disease
The most common age that women experience menopause is between the ages of 48 – 55. It is during this same period of a woman’s life that unhealthy habits from years before can begin to take a toll on the heart. Hence, the likelihood of experiencing both around the same time is increased.
Low Estrogen and Risk of Heart Disease
One thing a woman experiences during menopause is a decrease in estrogen levels.
Estrogen is believed to play a crucial role on the inner layer of the walls of the artery. Estrogen helps keep the blood vessels flexible allowing them to expand comfortably to accommodate blood flow. Therefore, low levels of estrogen can increase the chances of both stroke and coronary heart disease.
Blood Pressure and Risk of Heart Disease
Another common risk factor that can take place during menopause is the increase in blood pressure.
High blood pressure can be brought about by either the decrease in estrogen levels or, can be exasperated by weight increases often associated with menopause. As weight rises, the body tends to store bad cholesterol which can eventually lead to: clogged blood vessels, increased blood pressure and an increased strain on the heart.
What to Do
- Health & Fitness: Women at this juncture of their life are encouraged to make sure their lifestyles are as healthy as possible. Women experiencing menopause are advised to exercise regularly to help keep their weight at a healthy level and keep their body fit.
- Diet: Women reaching menopause are also advised to ensure that their diet is rich in fiber with moderate amounts of salt. Vegetables are great sources of vitamins and minerals as well as lean meats and low-fat dairy products.
- Other lifestyle factors: No matter what age you are, avoiding unhealthy habits like smoking can have a major impact on reducing your risk of developing heart disease. Smoking can decrease the oxygen that gets to the heart and increase the likelihood of developing blood clots, all factors that can increase your likelihood of developing heart disease.
The Bottom Line
Some heart disease conditions are hereditary, others are not. And, while menopause is not the sole cause of heart complications, its effects can play a role in increasing risk factors that contribute to heart disease.
Therefore, as you get closer to menopause, it is important to check with your doctor regularly to determine your level of risk and see what he or she recommends you to do best keep those factors at bay. A little precaution can go a long way in keeping your heart in peak physical condition and keep you around to enjoy life long after menopause has come and gone.
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